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ASP2021: A Virtual Conference

ASP2021: A Virtual Conference
Preliminary Schedule

Click here for the Schedule-at-a-Glance

    11:55 AM - 12:25 PM
    K12 Online Astronomy Education
    Conference Strand: Teaching Introductory Astronomy – What are We Doing Now?
    Denise Wright, IAU, National Educator Astronomy Coordinators. Grand Strand Astronomers, NASA Solar System Ambassadors
    Abstract of Session/Presentation: In the United States, many K12 schools are exploring the option of astronomy online education. Three reasons that astronomy is being offered through online learning are the shortage of earth science educators, the worldwide spread of COVID 19, and astronomy being considered an elective course, and thus, in some cases, not fitting into the public school schedule. Online learning has the opportunity to remove many of these barriers for students.

    When designing an online astronomy course, a learning management system is required to develop the content. Moodle is the open source learning management system that was chosen for this course. Moodle allows for a variety of online activities that may include forums, quizzes, tests, drag and drop items, and interactive assignments created and integrated by third party software such as H5P . Moodle has many accessibility options for learners such as screen reading, a consistent course layout, and multiple ways to provide written, audio, and video feedback on assignments.

    Each unit for this online high school astronomy course was created with a backwards design unit plan. This unit design pedagogy was originally published in the book Understanding By Design by Wiggins and McTighe. The overall goal of the backwards design unit plan is for educators to create each unit with the end goal and work backwards to design the learning experiences. In this high school level astronomy course, the units that are included are: Unit One: Observing Our Night Sky, Unit Two: Nature and Light of Telescopes, Unit Three: Life and Death Of Stars, Unit 4: Incredibly Massive Objects and Gravity, Unit 5: Our Amazing Sun, Unit 6: Earth and Its Satellite , Unit 7: Planetary Motion and Gravitation, Unit 8: Our Solar System: Terrestrial and Jovian Planets, Unit 9: Comets, Nomads, and Exoplanets, Unit 10: Galaxies, and Unit 11: Cosmology.

    The individual course lessons have been designed for students to learn about the foundations of astronomy. Some of the assignments include virtual labs, free mobile/ipad astronomy apps, open source software, such as Stellarium, and close captioned videos from NASA. The students become citizen scientists by participating in several Zooniverse Projects that are embedded in the course. Citizen science projects allow everyday people to help astronomers conduct simple scientific research. A few examples of citizen science projects that students participate in through the course are locating comets in a picture taken from a telescope, searching for exoplanets based on light graph data, and classifying galaxies based on their shape. Another exciting opportunity for students is that they have the ability to view the night sky with the South Carolina State Museum Observatory distance learning telescope. The telescope is a 1926 12 ⅜ inch Alvan Clarke Refractor. It was retrofitted with a web camera and Sky Net so that classrooms can go into live virtual meetings and have lessons on the moon, stars, and visible planets. The addition of the distance learning telescope adds a higher level of engagement in the astronomy online course. The opportunity for high school students to take an astronomy course online, provides an experience they may have not had and creates a modern understanding to this gateway science that inspires people of all ages and every culture.